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There is a good chance that, if you've ever taken a short-haul flight, you have flown on a Boeing 737. Recently the airplane's popularity was galvanized by a big milestone - the assembly of the 7,000th 737. And in January, the program will hit another milestone - a production rate increase from 31.5 to 35 airplanes per month.
It's all happening at Boeing's Renton, Wash. plant where the 737 program is housed. That's where Leah Overbeck works as a Boeing mechanic. "It's a really big leap, it's a big jump. It's a huge step forward for us to move so quickly into the future," says Overbeck, a mechanic who helps build the 737's wing.
Around the factory, the excitement is clear as Overbeck and her teammates move swiftly to meet new production goals.
Efficiency has been the key to the 737's success but now the stakes are even higher. Unprecedented demand has made the 737 into the world's best-selling jetliner with a backlog of more than 2,000 airplanes on order.
"It is crazy... I'll tell you initially, it felt a little overwhelming. And, boy, I tell you... the group got together and found a way." - director of manufacturing 737 wings, Mark Blakeley
The current Next-Generation 737 models build on the strengths that made the 737 the world's most-produced commercial airliner, while incorporating improvements for the 21st century.
If you could spend a month in the factory with one of these airplanes you'd see a production process as streamlined and technologically advanced as the airplanes themselves. The fuselage arrives by train pre-assembled. Once rolled into the factory, the wings are then joined to the fuselage. And, as the plane moves on a giant dolly - much like a conveyor belt - Boeing crews install all the necessary inner-workings to make a 737 whole.
On December 2nd, 2011 the first fully assembled 737 at the new rate rolled out of the factory and headed to the field where Boeing crews will test the systems, paint the fuselage and complete flight testing before delivery in early January. From now on, these crews will do that 35 times a month.
"It is crazy... I'll tell you initially, it felt a little overwhelming," said director of manufacturing for 737 wings, Mark Blakeley. "And, boy, I tell you... the group got together and found a way."
Vice president of 737 manufacturing operations, Eric Lindblad hopes the 737 team will make the production ramp up look easy. "I look forward to going to 38 and then on to 42. It just tells us what a great airplane we have and what a great team we have building the airplane."
For more information about the 737 visit: http://www.newairplane.com/737.